Documentaries serve to draw a response through the use of literary techniques in order to present a particular point of view. Michael Cordell's Music and Murder subscribes to this principle, the documentary focuses on three men serving prison sentences for taking a life and how music has changed and shaped their outlook on their own lives. Music, structure, verbal language and selection of detail all work on the viewers emotions which serve to draw a positive response towards rehabilitation in prisons. Music and Murder follows Vernon Kronk who killed an infant because it wet the bed, Geoffrey Webs dale who shot dead two people and injured one and Daniel Miles who stabbed his girlfriend.
All three prisoners are serving sentences in prison for their crimes and all three with the help of the prison teachers have found an interest in music. Music and Murder as a title for this documentary is very peculiar in that it hints that the two themes go together, many would see such a title as a paradox and that if rehabilitation was the only issue Music after Murder would be a more suitable title, however the emotional maturing through music is important in the documentary. Music recorded by the prisoners is played throughout the documentary, this attempts to give the viewer insight into the emotions felt by the musicians. The music is described by one of the prisons music teachers as "coming from the heart", because we have not discovered the crimes that the prisoners have committed the music attempts to draw on feelings of sympathy from the viewer for the men.
Much of the documentary is left to periods of the men's music; these periods are an expression of emotion by which the notion of humanity and a second chance is put forward. The structure, the order parts of the documentary are presented determine how prisoners are constructed by the viewer. In Music and Murder Vernon, Geoffrey and Daniel are all constructed in the same way and overall the documentary works to construct the prisoners as people deserving of the viewers trust. In the beginning of the documentary the prison is described and shown as concrete and metal and there are close-ups of the metal bars, locks and razor-wire. This use of montage re-establishes the viewers previous idea of prison as punishment. After this the music is introduced by the respected teachers as not leisure but a constructive way to use their time in prison, having the punishment aspect of prison introduced before the music gives the viewer a positive on the idea as music as rehabilitation and not just as leisure.
The construction of the prisoners life previous to their crimes is done through re-enactments and emotional recounts from the prisoners, this is used to shift the blame and create a sympathetic feel for them. After we discover the hardships undergone by these people their crimes are revealed and although horrible, the viewers feelings towards the prisoner change very little. Through the structure the viewers emotions towards the prisoners are manipulated and the prisoners are presented as only human, the crimes weren't their fault. Verbal language is important in Music and Murder; sincerity in a person can be shown through the way the prisoners speak as well as the way they look. Vernon Kronk is shown as a brutish man, but when he speaks the tone of his voice and the slang in his language presents to the viewer and image of sincerity and honesty. His image both in looks and in speech tie in closely with the representative image of the typical Australian bloke; this is used to let the viewer relate to Vernon and how he feels.
This construction through speech is also true of Geoffrey and Daniel who has a voice that is not sincere but dishonest and immature, a negative stance toward Daniel is held by the viewer. The viewer is aligned positively or negatively towards the prisoners through their tone and language. The way verbal language is used emphasizes the emotions and the way the prisoners are constructed as emotionally matured. Selection of detail in Music and Murder serves to align the viewer emotionally towards rehabilitation. Due to the lack of narrator, the dialogue involving opinions and comments spoken from the prisoners and their teachers shapes the viewers emotional responses. This can be very manipulating as there is only a brief comment from one of the victim's relatives on Daniel's second murder and nothing else; the viewer is positioned to feel apathetic towards the victims and their families.
After the audience is positioned to feel sympathy for the prisoners, an empathetic approach is taken on through interviews showing their sincere remorse, showing an understanding of the position they are in. This again emotionally aligns the viewer as for or against the prisoners. Throughout the documentary Music and Murder by Michael Cordell; music, structure, verbal language and selection of detail are used to position the viewer to respond sympathetically and empathetically towards the prisoner while learning nothing about how their crimes impacted on the lives of others. Such an emotional alignment presents the argument to the viewer that rehabilitation is a viable option in prisons.